“For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Revelation 19:10, ESV)
Let me start by saying I come from a word-heavy pulpit tradition. I love Bible teaching. I get all geeked up about subtle nuances in and historical backgrounds of the text. I enjoy hearing each verse explained, dissected, and applied. In my earlier years my favorite church service of the week was our Wednesday Night Bible Study. There I could hear the pastor teach for longer amounts of time and work with larger amounts of text. I so enjoyed hearing the Word.
Over time I've discovered a deeper element was at play. I loved that verse-by-verse style, but there was more happening beneath the surface. His teaching was incredibly Christ-full. Jesus was everywhere and in everything. The testimony of Jesus was found in every book of the Bible. He was the theme of every message. He was the hero of the book.
Once I had a chance to hear more verse-by-verse styled teaching I realized this isn’t always a given. It is rather easy to moralize the Bible and preach catchy messages from the text without mentioning Jesus. Additionally, it is tempting to treat a verse-by-verse study like an academic lecture void of adoration for Christ. I know this isn’t supposed to be, and that style would hardly be called biblical by God, but because the text is central to the message I think many feel like they are being fed. In reality, those messages need Jesus like the parched ground needs water.
As time has passed I have sought to preach Christ and His gospel in every message. I haven’t always succeeded — I'm growing — but here are some elements that have helped me preach Him.
Remember the Big Picture:
Every passage of the Bible connects somehow to the overarching plan of God to redeem us. My problem is that I am so self-focused that every passage must “speak to me." This causes me to lose sight of God’s redemptive plan.
When I remember what mankind lost and what God has done and is doing to gain it back for us, my message changes. The tower of Babel becomes a glimpse into mankind without Christ. The Song of Solomon demonstrates what the gospel can do to a marriage. The struggles of Israel portray the difficulty of living for God outside the power of Christ within us.
Remember the Lost:
When, in my mind, the scope of my audience is narrow, I typically will pick on behavioral issues and patterns I might see in the congregation. When I remember what it must be like for a non-believer to listen in I will naturally talk about Jesus. I know they have a great need to hear of Him!
Create Gaps for Christ to Speak:
I make every effort to study early in the week. Then I try to finish my Sunday sermon by Thursday afternoon. Starting, and finishing, early gives space for me to think about the text and teaching as I live life. This might not be pure “study time,” but it is often this gap helps me better see how the text deals with Jesus. It also gives me time to hear from the Spirit personally about the coming teaching. He really enjoys promoting Christ.
I mention this last, but it is the priority. If I don’t adore Jesus I likely won’t boast on Him. Nothing can replace our personal devotion to, fascination with, and worship of Jesus.
Let’s allow the savor of Christ to be found in every one of our messages. Hear from Him. Speak of Him. He is the hero, we are not. Let’s present Him in our teachings as the hero He is.